Admiral Fountain, Mr. Hamilton, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen and members of the Submarine Force family, it is truly an honor to be with you today as we commemorate this tragic event in the lives of the submarine family. And yet our reason for being here today is more than that. We are gathered here to remember, to console and to pray. To remember shipmates, friends and family members- those lost to us onboard SCORPION 40 years ago.
This memorial stands to honor the sacrifices of those gallant Sailors in their service to our country. And today’s ceremony reminds us that the wonderful reunions that come at the end of long deployments can never be taken for granted.
Never be taken for granted because Submarine Sailors face the dangers of life at sen daily, and willingly, for they recognize that there is no higher calling than that of service to the nation they call home.
As we recall that time in American history, SCORPION was a member of the Skipjack class, considered the best submarines at sea in their day. And the Sailors who sailed in them were recognized as the elite of the Force.
With an elegant teardrop shaped hull, these ships prowled the oceans of the world bringing a speed and maneuverability not seen before. This new capability, manned with the brave men who went to sea, was necessary to meet the growing threat of the Soviet Union.
It’s important to recall the Cold War mission of these submarines, as they gathered intelligence and shadowed their Soviet counterparts in often perilously close proximity.
As the last letters home from Petty Officer Violetti and Chief Weinbeck can attest, the SCORPION crew was intimately familiar with these missions.
So this morning, we gather together and pause, both as a Navy, and as a submarine family, to remember and honor our shipmates Jost onboard SCORPION. We remember and honor their courage, and we remember and honor their service. But most of all, we remember and honor their answering of that highest call.
We remember Commander Slattery, COB Bishop, Doc Saville, Petty Officer Cross and all their shipmates. We remember them as heroes. And we arc right to do so. They died, then, because of how they choose to live- in the life of service, proud of their freedom, proud of their country and proud of their country’s cause- the cause of liberty.
In the last century, submarines existed to oppose the totalitarian regimes of Germany, Japan and the Soviet Union. Regimes that sought to oppress and rule other nations. And I would argue that it is no exaggeration of historical judgement to say that without these ships and their heroic crews, those regimes would not have been stopped in their oppression of countless millions. The crew of SCORPION will always remain part of that legacy.
The submarine profession is a demanding one. Some days, it can be quite exciting. It is certainly satisfying and rewarding. But it can also be a dangerous profession with most missions being completed beyond the public eye. While there have been hundreds of thousands of Sailors who have served onboard submarines in our 108- year history, the Sailors that we remember today made the ultimate sacrifice for their service to the country. And they remind us all what it means to go in harm’s way.
We hone our skills is seas that can be calm and peaceful, but those seas can tum in a moment.. …. and the sea knows neither pity nor remorse. We serve our nation under those seas. W c live with that risk- every day, on every mission, to serve our nation. Forty years ago we lost 99 extraordinary men at sea. Sometimes we forget the courage it took for the crew of SCORPION to take to sea. But they were aware of the danger, and they overcame it. … to serve their country by taking on their final mission. And while we may never fully know the circumstances surrounding the loss of SCORPION, we mourn these 99 heroes. We mourn their loss together as a submarine family.
In our Navy, the common bond of service to country binds us closely as shipmates and a Navy family. For the families of the SCORPION crew, we cannot truly comprehend, as you do, the full impact of this sacrifice. But we feel the loss, and we’re thinking about you. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special spirit that said, “Give me a challenge, and I’ll meet it.” They had a hunger to serve their country, and they did so with honor. They served all of us.
These lives were cut tragically short. Some, like Petty Officer Donald Powell, were in their early 20s. But our responsibility is to remember the fallen as they were- as they would have wanted to be remembered- living in freedom, blessed by it, proud of it and willing- like so many others before them, and like many today, to die for it. And to remember them as believers in the heroic ideal for which this nation stands- the ideal of service to country and to others.
And so your Sailors are with us again today. And my words cannot match the power of the sacrifices made by those we honor this morning. I am certain that we never truly lose the people we Jove, even in death.
Through the years, the legacy of this courageous crew has continued to shape our Submarine Force, by remaining in our thoughts and helping direct the decisions we make. Their service and sacrifice leaves an imprint on our lives. I hope you have found some comfort over the years knowing that your lives have been enriched by that legacy.
We pray that God will give some share of the peace that now belongs to those we lost, especially to those who knew and loved them in this life.
But as we remember together we are also thankful- thankful for their lives and their service. And proud too- as proud as they were – that they lived their lives as Americans.
Today’s young Americans, young Sailors, young Marines along with their brothers and sisters in the Army, and Air Force and Coast Guard- arc as dedicated, as brave, and as determined as their predecessors. They arc as equipped, with the example of fortitude and determination that grew from the sacrifices of those who came before them. They are motivated by those examples of service and heroism we honor today.
Many of them are out there today, afloat and ashore, taking the fight to the enemy. Many arc on watch, undersea, in distant parts of the world. Others are getting ready to deploy, as their country has asked them to do. These young people, of whom I am so proud, are doing a magnificent job.
To the memory and legacy of those who made the ultimate sacrifice, to those resting with SCORPION in that hallowed place, we extend again the thanks of a grateful nation. We extend the promise that their sacrifice will always be honored. All of us who serve in the Submarine Force and wear the cloth of the nation today- we commit, we promise to do our duty so that America will remain the beacon of hope and the bastion of liberty. We make this
promise in the memory of those who served and gave their lives as recognized by this ceremony.
While ultimately, the Sailors of SCORPION gave their lives for our country, let us also remember this: They also lived for our country. And they had been dedicating their lives every day … .. . by entering military service, through extensive training and preparation for this deployment, all the way up to that moment 40 years ago when they began their Eternal Patrol.
And their service gives special meaning and honor to their lives. The heroes of SCORPION achieved what they were reaching for. They made a difference- on their ship, with their shipmates, and in our Navy.
And forever in our history. May they rest in peace.